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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown Students Perform at Kamala Harris’ Diwali Celebration

Lawrence Jackson
Guzaarish Bollywood dancers perform at a Diwali Reception, Friday, October 21, 2022, at the Vice President’s Residence in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

A team of students performed traditional South Asian dance at Vice President Kamala Harris’ Washington, D.C. residence for a celebration of Diwali on Oct. 21.

Guzaarish, a competitive Bollywood fusion dance team composed of 23 Georgetown University students, performed four different types of dance for an audience of over 100 politicians, actors and other prominent members of the South Asian community including Charithra Chandran, who plays Edwina Sharma in the hit Netflix series “Bridgerton” and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. 

Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to serve as U.S. Vice President, hosted the event to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu religious festival also known as the Festival of Lights. 

Rishma Vora (SFS ’23), who helped found Guzaarish in 2019 and served as captain for three years, said the performance was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the team, who competed nationally for the first time in Spring 2022.

“It was like this insane dream that we didn’t even know we had,” Vora told The Hoya. “It really means a lot for a South Asian person to be able to have this experience.”

@gu_guzaarish/Instagram | After their performance, Guzaarish dancers got to speak with Vice President Harris, who gave encouraging remarks and thanked the team for their performance.

The team also got to mingle with guests at the event after their performance, according to Vora.

“Charithra Chandran actually came up to us and told us that she was so happy that we danced to a song in her native language,” Vora said. “It was surreal to be around all of them.”

Vora said a close friend of the team recommended Guzaarish to the Vice President as soon as she expressed interest in finding Bollywood dancers to perform at the celebration. Just nine days before the event, Vora received a call confirming Guzaarish would be performing. 

Guzaarish Finance Captain Druhi Dangi (MSB ’25) said the team’s four-minute performance included several different styles of dance: Raas, a traditional Indian folk dance; Bhangra, a popular Punjabi folk dance; Bollywood, a theatrical fusion dance; and Kuthu, a South Asian folk dance. A group of youth dancers from the Taal Academy of Dance, a D.C.-based Indian dance company, performed after Guzaarish.

Guzaarish usually dances to mixes of traditional South Asian music with Western songs, but event organizers said they wanted the team to take a more traditional approach for their Diwali performance, according to Vora. 

“We took what was already within our repertoire and changed some of the songs around,” Vora said. “For example, we took our Bollywood piece that was a mix between the song ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and a South Asian song and we ended up having the same choreo to a different South Asian song.”

Harris’ team invited Dangi and two other members of the executive board, Logistics and Operations Captain Ruhie Rapolu (COL ’25) and Choreography Captain Prisha Punjabi (COL ’25), to visit Harris’ residence two days before the event to see the space where the team would be performing. 

Preparations for the performance coincided with deadlines to submit audition videos for competitions taking place in Spring 2023, so the team could only rehearse once for the show, according to Dangi. 

Punjabi said the team rehearsed together until 2 a.m. to perfect their routine the night before the performance.

“We had a five-and-a-half-hour practice that night,” Punjabi said. “Usually our practices don’t go that long, but because it was such an important thing, everyone was super excited to practice and the morale was really high.”

After the performance, the team got to meet, speak with and take photos with Harris, who gave motivational remarks to the performers and encouraged the team to continue to take pride in their heritage. The team also joined the rest of the guests in a sparkler ceremony, a popular tradition celebrating the festival of lights, outside Harris’ home. 

Vora said the performance was a success and reflected a culmination of years-long commitment to the club for seniors on the team, who helped start Guzaarish in their first year on the Hilltop.

“It’s just an incredibly proud moment as Georgetown students, as South Asian students, to be able to have been inside of the vice president’s residence and meet her and share something we work and practice nine hours a week for,” Vora said. “We really are dedicated and passionate about what we do and to have been able to share that on such an important stage was everything we could have asked for and more.”

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